I’ve had the iPad long enough to have made my way through three e-books, so I feel qualified to assess the experience, at least at a first-impression level. (The fact two of them were “A Game of Thrones” and “A Clash of Kings” is the reason the total isn’t much bigger. More on that in a minute.)
A friend of mine who’s a little further down this road said, when I expressed reservations at ever joining the Kindle generation, “You will,” which to my ears sounded like me talking to vinyl holdouts in the late ’80s, complaining about CDs. The wave of the future sweeps all before it, and while there will always be a place in the world for ink on paper, and I’m sure there will be some Brooklyn-hipster retro book movement down the road (they’ll call themselves “codexers”), e-books are here to stay. Which is fine, but to a far greater extent than CDs, they’ll change the experience of reading.
Unless you’re the sort of audiophile who really notices the difference between analog and digital recording — and I wasn’t, at least not at first — the prime selling point for CDs was convenience. They were smaller. They didn’t wear out, at least not quickly. They didn’t need to be flipped halfway through. You could have a party, and if someone pogoed too hard, they didn’t skip all over the place. Multi-disk changers meant you could load up an evening’s worth of music, press play and forget about it.
I don’t quite see the same argument for e-books. A Kindler I know who travels often says it’s a nice way to carry an armload of magazines onto a plane, and mentions the added value of being useful for the sort of books you want to leaf through or even read, but not necessarily buy in hardcover. The trendy non-fiction read of the month, say, or something dirty. An author here in Detroit says her erotica-penning colleagues are enjoying a renaissance via Kindle, as you no longer have to hold something with a whip on the cover while reading your lunch hour away on a park bench.
But as to the claim that ebooks will declutter your house? No, thanks. I love all my books, and only fail to love them at moving time. As I’m not likely to be moving again until I’m carried out feet-first, it won’t be my problem.
There are some advantages, though. Last month, I set up an interview with an author whose book was being published that day. Available electronically? Yes. Money in the Amazon account? Yes. (And thanks for that, all of you Kickback Lounge shoppers!) Click, click, and there it is. About as fast as it took you to read that last sentence. It takes just a few seconds. So great, more instant gratification for a nation swimming in it. There’s that.
Your comfort with the reading experience will depend on how you read, and that’s where my problems come in. Take George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series, for instance, the first two volumes I mentioned above. Every one is the size of a cinder block, and features nine million characters. Each volume features endpaper maps, and appendices that lay out all the families, clans and alliances between them all. I’m only at the end of the second book, and I can already see the series developing Harry Potter’s Disease — the sort of overwriting authors do, and editors permit, when a franchise has become so popular that fans clamor for more, more, more. (I haven’t read Harry Potter, but people whose opinion I respect say that each subsequent volume was more bloated than the last, and knowing some HP fans, I can see how it happened. They are black holes of need.)
But I’m at the point in “A Clash of Kings” where, if I were a reader of ink on paper, I’d be flipping ahead, skimming battle scenes, blowing off interior monologues and, of course, checking all those family trees, but I don’t, because I’m afraid of losing my place. (Yes, there’s a bookmarking system. I don’t like it.) At this point, in the final chapters, I feel like I’m driving a snowplow through 10 inches of slush.
On the other hand, I search for a living, and I’ve developed my eye for keywords. I like having a search function so, if I can remember a character’s name and its odd spelling — and I do remember, and they’re all odd — I can easily find his or her first appearance if I want to recheck something. I like that. And I like the fact I can read a 1,000-page novel in a slim little case the size of a file folder.
When I go on vacation next week, I’m taking “Just Kids” and “Djibouti” in analog form, and “A Storm of Swords” on the iPad. I’ll tell you how it works out.
Rick Perry says he wants to be president? Gee, I wonder what he’ll decide. Stop teasing and get it over with, a’ready.
Meanwhile, you’re not paying enough attention to Sarah! She will not be ignored!
And with that, I must run. Be good, all.
UPDATE: Oops, almost forgot! The heartbreak of cleavage wrinkles. The New York Times is ON IT.